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SENIORS AND ADDICTION

By Paula Sotir

As a country we are talking a lot about the epidemic of opioid use and it's danger to our youth. What we aren't talking about is the danger of addiction in the lives of our seniors. Addiction in seniors is most often found in the form of alcohol abuse or prescription drugs. Addiction isn't always obvious and in seniors it may be masked in many ways. Depression may be just that, but it may also be the by-product of increased alcohol consumption. 


It is crucial that relatives and caregivers pay close attention to mood swings and changes in behavior. Following surgery, caregivers and loved ones need to be vigilant about the doses of pain medications seniors are being prescribed and consuming. It is not uncommon to have adverse reactions to strong pain medications and it is not uncommon to become "hooked on" these painkillers. Seniors are more susceptible to addiction because memory is often a problem and therefore it is hard for them to track their medications if someone isn’t helping them and keeping a close eye on them


Some signs to watch for if you are concerned about your elderly loved one and a possible addiction include:


Memory Issues

Sadness, depression

Desiring to be alone

Not eating well

Not sleeping well

Lack of interest in people or activities that they usually enjoy


Of course these symptoms may be caused by illnesses other than addiction, so it is imperative to ask a qualified physician to help diagnose the problem. You will have to be persistent as many people will tell you not to worry, it’s not a problem at their age! This once prevalent view is changing and more and more health care providers are being trained to ask the hard, right questions to compassionately care for our seniors facing addiction. So, if you are concerned, ask for help from a reputable health care team who regularly care for our beloved senior citizens.